Technological Affordances in Human-AI Interaction

Date: Wednesday 04 August 2021 at 1-1.50pm AEST.

Speaker: Dr. Jenny L. Davis from ANU

Title: Technological Affordances in Human-AI Interaction


Bio: Dr. Jenny L. Davis is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Sociology at ANU, Chief Investigator and Exec on the Humanising Machine Intelligence Project, and DECRA Fellow, researching ethics in Australia’s technology startup sector.

Twitter: @Jenny_L_Davis


 Abstract: ‘Affordance’ has been a central construct for designers and technology theorists since foundational statements on the topic from JJ Gibson and Don Norman in the 1970s and 80s. With the rise of digitization and widespread automation, this concept has entered common parlance and resurged within academic discourse and debate. The term refers to how the features of technologies enable and constrain—but do not determine— user engagement and social dynamics. Davis will discuss her book on the topic, How Artifacts Afford: The Power and Politics of Everyday Things (MIT Press, 2020)which updates affordance theory by shifting the orienting question from what technologies afford to how technologies afford, for whom, and under what circumstances? This reorientation is supported by the transformation of ‘affordance’ from a singular concept into an operational model—the mechanisms and conditions framework. The mechanisms and conditions framework of affordance specifies how technologies request, demand, encourage, discourage, refuse, and allow social action, varying across subjects and circumstances. This model overlays affordance theory with a critical lens that attends to the values encoded in socio-technical systems. In this talk, Davis will recap the mechanisms and conditions framework, highlight its relevance for human-AI interaction, and apply the framework to simple and complex technologies of automation and machine learning.